There are many ideas out there for companies. Following COVID-19, new businesses and appreciation for entrepreneurship increased. Not every idea or business will succeed, though. I knew the ratio of success was low, so I was not surprised to discover in a Daily Hustle email that only 2 out of 5 startups are profitable.
“You read that correctly, Susan. Three out of 5 new businesses don’t make a dime. What’s more, only ~80% make it to their 2nd year (per Small Business Trends).”
— Daily Hustle
With those odds, how do you stand out and make it in the market? The answer may be found in actually marketing and growing your brand. I’ve known some founders who wait too long to invest in marketing and throw money at ads or sales instead of building a brand and community.
"One of the starkest differences I see between First-Timers in SaaS and Second-Timers is when they hire their VP of Marketing. Second Timers know."
— Jason Lemkin, Founder of SaaStr
If you are struggling to find marketing success or are apprehensive about placing too much emphasis on marketing, here are the five marketing tactics I believe are undervalued or used incorrectly in startups.
1. Get social
Social media is often overlooked, underappreciated, or misunderstood in the startup world. It can be one of the best ways to increase brand awareness and build a community — getting social with people.
Social media is not just about putting out demo requests or links to your blog. While those things should be sprinkled into your mix, sharing industry and external content helps establish your position in the industry.
Social media success is best achieved when you take the time to comment and contribute to discussions. This also helps increase your thought leadership credibility. You’ll see more followers from doing this and people will trust you and, in return, your product or service.
Pro-tip: You can follow hashtags or keywords on social media to customize and see relevant content and posts that help you engage quickly and with the audience that most benefits your industry.
2. Update and repurpose old content
They say content is king. But that doesn’t mean you to need force content and throw things out just to hit a so-called quota of content. If you haven’t invested in a good copywriter or content strategist, you may be creating content just for the sake of checking it off the box and that won’t lead to results.
One good way to find valuable content is to look over your metrics and repurpose or update that content. Did you have a blog post that received multiple comments, likes, shares, or page traffic? Take that post and make an infographic with 3–5 main points from it.
Did you have a social media post that was popular? Take that and do some research to write a more in-depth blog post. Do you have a web page that gets the most traffic? Maybe it’s the FAQs — take a question a day and answer it on social media for a weekly campaign.
Pro-tip: Repurpose does NOT mean you replace a few words. If you think that you can just hit the find/replace function for two things throughout and call it a day, you have not repurposed you’ve swapped.
3. Guest blog
Earning PR through guest blogging helps build your reach and credibility. Identify a few subjects that you have established expertise in and pitch a partnership with a publication, blogger, or another company whose readers may benefit from your opinion.
Before you can gain access to guest blogging, you will need to demonstrate through your own blog and discussions on other blogs what you can bring to the table.
By creating and sharing your content online, you will build your own portfolio that will do the pitching for you. As you find content that becomes shareable and spreads throughout the community, more places will welcome you as a guest on their blog.
Pro-tip: Reach out to publications that you’ve shared or built relationships with through your comments on their posts.
4. Go live and produce videos
Going live makes you more real and relatable instead of a distant founder or product. If you are in a saturated market, this can help you stand apart and put your own ideas front and center. If you are in a new market, this helps build trust among potential customers.
While going live first came out on Instagram, the engagement and popularity blended into the B2B community with LinkedIn embracing the capability. On Instagram and Facebook anyone can easily go live, but you need to apply on LinkedIn.
If you don’t qualify or want to jump through the LinkedIn hoops, you can still post videos that are well received by users and take discussions in the comments or private messages. Some ideas for good videos include behind-the-scenes, hot topic discussions, answer questions, and just share general thoughts on industry trends.
Pro-tip: Find a scheduled time where people know you will go live. Maybe it’s a Monday morning memo, or mid-week nugget, or a Friday feature. Make sure it’s a commitment you can make — is it weekly, monthly, quarterly? Find what is manageable and stick to it and you will find a loyal following.
5. Exclusive betas
I think exclusive betas may be one of the most missed opportunities for startups. While many beta test different products or features, it is usually not talked about or is talked about after the fact.
There is a tendency for people to want exclusive things. While the purpose of a beta is to collect feedback and help advance your UX to build the best product for users, it can also be a key piece in your marketing strategy.
Talking about a product in beta and sharing snippets will get your brand out there and generate buzz before you are officially ready to launch. Sneak peeks or behind-the-scenes will help establish your thought leadership and knowledge in the space.
Pro-tip: Leveraging your beta users for co-marketing opportunities is a win-win for you both. Customers can show their ability to innovate and test new features or products and you earn credibility by having trust and confidence with your customers that the market will see.
Maybe you haven’t been using all of the above tactics or maybe you have misunderstood how to use them together to maximize your startup marketing success. Let’s look at an example of how they can work based on a startup scenario.
Imagine your startup is launching a new feature that will incorporate real-time analytics for customers. It’s been on the roadmap for some time and you’ve dedicated resources to the plan now and decide to work with a few select customers to beta test it.
You decide to coordinate marketing initiatives in conjunction with the product management plan of the beta release. You put together a social media calendar that includes a mix of your original content and content from others.
You come across a really great blog from someone in the tech industry and the quarter is dedicated to all things real-time analytics. You find some of the top articles and share them on your social media.
Going through your old content, you discover a playbook that had a section on real-time. You repurpose that section, create an infographic with relevant content, and break out a mini social campaign using key factors.
You have been commenting and sharing your thoughts on other social posts and blogs that discuss real-time. You have been in contact with and engaging in comments with the blogger dedicated to writing about real-time this quarter. He shares your infographic on social and it is shared many times by others. You thank him for sharing and inquire about a guest blog opportunity. He agrees.
Your blog post on his website is well received. You see the engagement and community you have built with people in the industry and decide to go-live and with one of your beta customers and discuss the beta process, the importance of real-time, and give a behind-the-scenes look teasing the full release to the public.
While engineers, QA, and product managers have been fixing bugs during the beta, you created an eager community and built thought leadership. when you are ready to release the feature to the public, they are already there.
Many tactics go into a marketing strategy. They accompany these five things well. But when combined, these five can help build your community, and since they are often overlooked or underappreciated focusing on them can provide a great return for you.